March 17, 2023
Contact: Zoe Patchell, Delaware CAN email@example.com
Delaware Senate Health Committee Releases Cannabis Reform Bills Despite Corporate Opposition
Dover - The Delaware Senate Health Committee approved a pair of cannabis legalization bills on March 15, 2023 setting the stage for a final Senate floor vote in the coming weeks. Both were passed by the DE House with two-thirds supermajorities and will now face another showdown with Governor Carney.
House Bill 1 and House Bill 2 have been refined over several years to completely remove criminal penalties for simple marijuana possession and legalize an adult-use cannabis marketplace.
“After nearly a decade of delays and obstruction we’re grateful that lawmakers are finally prioritizing these important cannabis reform bills,” said Zoë Patchell, Delaware CAN executive director, “Each day that Delaware hesitates in ending prohibition we will see more than a dozen cannabis consumers get penalized for conduct that is now completely legal in states like New Jersey, Maryland, Virginia, New York, and Connecticut.”
Grassroots activists and advocates have been frustrated by the tall hurdles in place for any law requiring a new license or tax. Some bills missed passing by a single vote in previous sessions. Last year Gov. Carney vetoed a narrow bill that would have stopped arrests for simple possession.
That’s why the tidal wave of support in 2023 shows that cannabis is winning. There are enough votes in the DE House this year to likely snub any additional pushback from Carney.
Sadly, there are big money interests opposing grassroots cannabis reform. Perhaps the most disappointing and misguided opposition has been from Delaware’s medical marijuana permit holders.
A corporate cartel, representing some rather large companies and wealthy investors, showed up again to testify against legalization. Under the banner of the Delaware Cannabis Industry Association (DCIA), these same groups testified in opposition to a retail cannabis bill in 2021.
DCIA seems totally frustrated by the fairness intended by DE legislators in future recreational cannabis permits. Still, the lobbying pressure is being intensified to win market capture. DCIA requested amendments that would grant exclusive rights to open adult-use cannabis sales out of the existing medical dispensaries before any equity applicants can sprout a seed.
The central and most hyperbolic claim of DCIA is that these medical operators will ‘go out of business’ without statutory exclusivity for automatic recreational permits. HB2 envisions 30 permits with 15 set aside for equity applicants.
The DCIA medical permit holders are welcome to apply for a new recreational license. But they don’t want to stand in line with everyone else.
Many grassroots cannabis activists in Delaware fought for the medical marijuana law, and then registered as patients in the state program. Today, they are boycotting the corporate dispensaries.
“As a registered medical cannabis patient I was appalled to hear every single one of our medical permit holders offer completely outrageous claims and demand special privileges,” said Delaware NORML’s Laura Sharer, “Many patients agree that these vendors have never adequately provided for our needs. We have long felt that these greedy companies only prioritize profits over people.”
James Brobyn, an owner of Valor dispensary and president of Delaware Cannabis Industry Association, said he represented all six permit holders including First State Compassion Center, Valor/DelCann, EzyVenture/The Farm, CannTech LLC/Good Buds, CCRI/Fresh and Cresco/Columbia Care.
Notably, Valor was awarded a medical cannabis permit in 2019 that has not yet opened for patients. Also, the owner of ‘The Farm’ dispensary - Bill Rohrer - formerly owned the only cannabis compliance laboratory for DE’s entire medical marijuana program.
Political connections abound among DE’s medical cannabis cartel, including former US Senate aide and now lobbyist Mark Lally, New Jersey Assemblyman Raj Mukherji, influential businessman David Tuttleman, and Bill Freeborn the former director of Delaware Division of Corporations, to name a few.
The national cannabis permit cartel also uses Delaware as a welcome corporate home. Brands like Curaleaf and Columbia Care seem to open a new Delaware shell corporation for every dispensary they operate.
“What these businesses are lobbying for amounts to a special competitive advantage that benefits just six large multi-million dollar businesses. We would rather see those same first-mover privileges go to local Delaware small businesses,” said DECAN’s Zoe Patchell.
Delaware Cannabis Advocacy Network is an all-volunteer, citizen-led, grassroots advocacy group. Since 2013 our members have been advocating to remove all criminal penalties for cannabis, initiate criminal justice reforms for those adversely affected by cannabis prohibition, and replace the current illicit cannabis market with a safe, legal, and well-regulated industry.
Press Contact: Zoë Patchell, Executive Director, Delaware CAN firstname.lastname@example.org